Black America: It’s time to stop caring about everyone but you

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Editor’s note: The following article is an editorial, and the opinions expressed are those of the author. Read more opinions on the Grio.

It’s been a tough mental health awareness month for America, but especially for black and brown Americans who, in the space of just one week, endured the unthinkable at a local grocery store in Buffalo, NY , and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. .

Let’s just say it: blacks and browns in America are under attack. This is the state of our nation right now. Eighteen-year-old boys threatening innocent men, women and children with weapons of war. A nation where we shout at each other daily on social media – where we are divided on teaching critical race theory versus “great replacement theory,” which inspires white supremacists to violence. Where Ohio school kids put up signs for whites only and teachers are suspended for telling black students pick up the cotton. It seems the world has gone mad. And black people are caught in the middle of it all and are paying a heavy mental and emotional price.

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My goal in this column was to initially help us as a community move into a place of deeper and more meaningful self-care in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and to share some life lessons that I collected in my next book, Be the One You Need: 21 Life Lessons I Learned Taking Care of Everyone But Me. But, instead, here we are again, in the midst of two mass shootings that this time claimed the lives of black customers – many of them elderly black women – at a local grocery store. And beyond that, our worst fears that Sandy Hook could breed in Uvalde, a small, mostly Hispanic Texas community outside of San Antonio.

(Courtesy of Sophia Nelson)

The question then for us as black people who live daily with so many stressors – the financial stress, the stress of poverty, unemployment or underemployment, the stress of racism in the workplace and being black-skinned in an America where getting arrested for a routine traffic violation can result in a death sentence by a policeman who “feared for his life”. How do we protect ourselves and take care of our own mental well-being with all of this happening to us 24/7?

The answer is simple: we learn to put ourselves first. I learned firsthand the damage we cause ourselves when we take care of everyone but ourselves. This is quite common in our town. Black women are the biggest abusers on earth of self neglect. This must change. Because if we don’t start taking better care of ourselves, America is going to eat us alive. The black community must become much more aware and committed to protect our own mental health individually and as a community. We have to accept, especially as black women in America, that we are bombarded with negativity, damaging stereotypes, and constant attacks on our appearance, our hair, and who we are. Microaggressions, unconscious biases – they cause serious damage to the human soul. To our self-esteem. To our self-esteem.

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In these perilous times, I’d like to share three important steps we can take to prioritize self-care now more than ever. I learned the critical importance of taking care of myself in the face of COVID-19, not once but twice, and having to care almost alone for a sick relative at home with a disability. I nearly sank as a carer with so many other things on my plate. I had to learn to ask for help and then accept it when offered.

1. Ask yourself three questions, often if not daily: 1) What do I want? 2) What do I need? 3) How do I feel? By asking yourself how you feel and what you need, you allow yourself to honor yourself and take care of yourself. You recognize that you are also a human being. That you also deserve care, love, respect and connection with good people. That you are not like others can define you or see you in the world. When we ask ourselves these three simple questions, we set healthy boundaries on how we honor what we need from ourselves and others in our space. All change starts with you, not others connected to you. You must be the one you need.

2. Prioritize what you need to fix in your life. Manage your traumas. I read a life changing book in 2021 by Oprah Winfrey and Dr Bruce Perry titled, What happened to you. The authors focus on the defining and life-changing impact of trauma and resilience on our lives, all of our lives. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with me?” we should ask, “What happened to me?” so that we focus on resolving the conflicts, traumas, family wounds and relationship issues that often keep us from being the authentic and whole people we want to be.

3. Know what to hold on to and what to release. Much of our daily stress is that we carry too much instead of doing what the Bible tells us:throw away our worries.” We have been carrying unhealed traumas, unhealed pains and unprocessed sorrows for centuries. We need to learn the tools of emotional intelligence and emotional well-being. We need to experience joy, relaxation and peace in our lives. Our Caucasian brothers and sisters have permission to let off steam, feel and rest when they are tired, or go to therapy or take medicine if they need it.

We need to give ourselves permission to feel what we feel and work through it. Knowing that we don’t dishonor God just because we also want to honor ourselves. Learn what to keep and what to get rid of in your life. It makes life much simpler and happier.


Sophia A. Nelson is editor-in-chief for theGrio. Nelson is a television commentator and is the author of “The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock”, “Black Women Redefined”.

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About Antoine L. Cassell

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